Your Hip Flexor and Your Fertility

By Meredith Nathan Director of Massage, LMT

The psoas muscle, the largest muscle in the group of muscles that make up the hip flexor, is arguably the most important muscle in your body. Without this vital muscle you’d never be able to get up off the floor!  Reaching from the 12th thoracic vertebrae to the 5th lumbar vertebrae, traveling down the pelvis to the femur, it is the primary connector between your torso and your legs  The only muscle in your body that connected your legs to your spine, It affects your posture and stabilizes your vertebrae.

A weak or tight psoas is known as a hidden cause of low back pain.  But low back pain isn’t the only mysterious symptom associated with an imbalanced psoas.  Another frequent symptom is stress, which both causes the psoas to contract and can also be caused by a contracted psoas.  Anatomically linked to your breath, it connects to the diaphragm through connective tissue and diaphragmatic ligaments.  Stress not only signals the psoas to contract which creates tension in the diaphragm, it also signals shallow, pant-like breathing which doesn’t engage the diaphragm.  Both of these factors signal an ancient fight or flight response in the body, activating stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

Your psoas muscles also create a muscular shelf that your kidneys and adrenals rest on. As you breathe deeply your diaphragm moves and your psoas muscles gently massage these organs, stimulating blood circulation. But when deep breathing doesn’t occur or the psoas muscles become imbalanced, the adrenals and kidneys don’t receive the stimulation they need, and the feeling of exhaustion can become a way of life.  In fact, according to Liz Koch, author of The Psoas Book, “The psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, that a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you’re in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system.”

The kidneys and adrenals aren’t the only organ affected: as the psoas travels through the pelvis it supports your organs and works like a hydraulic pump pushing lymph and blood into and out of your cells.  When psoas becomes tight or imbalanced, overall abdominal stagnation can occur.  And if all that weren’t enough, a tight psoas can directly impact a woman’s reproductive system.  The nerves of the reproductive organs embed throughout iliopsoas, and a tight psoas may pin down the uterus, creating painful menstrual cramps.  The ovaries, which can double in size during ovulation, also sit close to the psoas, especially if the uterus is retrograde.  A tight psoas can cause pain in the ovaries, restrict blood flow, and impinge reproductive nerves.

So how can you tell if you have a tight, weak, or overstrained psoas?

Here are some symptoms of an imbalanced psoas:

  • pain in the low back/hips
  • leg length discrepancy
  • postural problems (especially a low back that has a more extreme ‘C’ curve, or one that has almost no curve
  • constipation
  • severe menstrual cramps
  • chronic chest breathing
  • chronic fatigue

If you’ve identified that your psoas might be tight or over-strained, there are things you can do to help support it.  

  • try a runner’s stretch or warrior pose; hold all stretches for at least 30 seconds so the body will ‘remember’ the new length
  • put a small cushion or support behind your low back while seated (for instance, while you’re driving your car or sitting at your desk
  • try Open the Breath, the second blood builder session in The Fertility Enhancing Massage Protocol™; this massage works specifically with releasing the iliopsoas and balancing the viscera through breath work and massage

So give your psoas a little love.  You’ll have a happy hip flexor, and your whole body will thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moon Mantras

by Kellie Greene RYT, RPYT

The fertility and pregnancy journey can often be riddled with anxiety, fear, and doubt. Our yoga instructor Kellie Greene draws on more than ten years of experience to give you a brief overview on why adding mantras to your coping toolbox can be beneficial at any point on your journey with Pulling Down the Moon.

What is a mantra? 

Mantras are something we discuss in both the Yoga for Fertility and Prenatal classes. They can be useful in yoga postures that are held for a longer period of time, or doctors appointments, waiting for test results, and daily encouragement. It can be helpful to disrupt the stress hormone cycle, and boost the beneficial hormone oxytocin. It also gives parents something they can control.  A mantra can be a simple phrase, a word, a prayer, or an intention. It is typically repeated several times in a row during a challenging experience, or several times throughout the day.

Why choose to use mantras?

The fertility and childbearing experience is one of great stress. That may present as anxiety, difficulty making decisions, depression, fear, or passing physical symptoms. A mantra is a tool meant to bring some level of calm. It can be helpful to remind yourself of a feeling you wish to evoke to replace the stress response. Or, it can be helpful to remind yourself that this part of your journey is temporary. Regardless of why your have chosen to try a mantra it can give you something you can control, or allow you to shift your focus intentionally on to something positive.

Common fertility mantras- 

  • This is temporary  One day at a time
  • I will be a parent It will happen for me
  • I am healthy, I am whole  I can do this
  • I am not alone  I will stay patient and trust
  • Common Prenatal mantras –
  • My baby is healthy and happy in this moment.
  • The information I have tells me baby is fine
  • My body is doing exactly what it needs to be doing in this moment
  • My baby is safe
  • I trust my body
  • Today I am pregnant

The fertility and pregnancy can be lonely, and filled with many emotions. It’s ok to be your own loudest cheerleader. Each day can be a new mantra. You can use it once or a 100 times.

If you would like help choosing a mantra that is right for your situation talk to one of our yoga instructors before or after class. Check our schedule for a time and location that is right for you.

‘Letting Go’ Through Yoga to Find a Deeper Peace

by Alison Lautz, LCSW, RYT

Over dinner a few weeks ago, a friend and I chatted about her attendance at the Wanderlust Yoga Festival in Chicago. I unfortunately had not been able to make it which was a big bummer. My girlfriend had recently been through some big, not so great, life changes and had said that spending the day at the yoga festival was very healing for her. She shared a quote with me that one of the Wanderlust teachers had started their class with that really resonated for her life and current situation. The quote by an unknown author read “It was never mine carry, so today I lay it down”.

This is where the beautifully simple, yet abstract and often elusive idea of “letting go” comes in. As a yoga teacher, I use this phase often during my classes and for many of us, hearing the words “let it all go,” may be one of the reasons why we step on our mats.  These comforting and supportive words ease our minds both off and on the mat. Fully letting go to create more space takes courage, trust, and faith. This 100% translates to life off of our mats and igniting the strength to tackle head on whatever struggles we are facing.

As we practice yoga, we connect with our divine nature and our higher selves. Letting go may feel different each day. Sometimes it feels active and moves forward into more knowledge. Other times letting go feels like acceptance, sometimes it feels like a release. It can mean a celebration, while other times it feels like surrender or a rest. However it feels to you, it is important to remember that this practice of letting go evolves and grows deeper the more you do it. It’s a practice and it’s not meant to be perfect right off the bat and you can’t expect it to be.

The lack of control that we have while trying conceive can seem very unfair. The waiting game is frustrating, isolating, tiring, unpredictable, expensive, and lengthy. Increased ease through our fertility journeys can be found if we work on and practice ‘letting go’. Once we start to channel our ability to ‘let go’, we find that we can transfer this skill to be useful in other parts of our worlds; work stresses, relationship issues, time management, parenting, financial fears, and health management, just to name a few. Come check out Yoga for Fertility or the Two Week Walk to work on ‘letting go’.

“It was never mine to carry, so today I lay it down.”

by Alison Lautz, LCSW, RYT

Join Ali in her new series of Yoga for Fertility on Mondays at 5:30pm! Questions?  Call us at: 312-321-0004.

Summer Lovin’

by Diana Zic RYT, RPYT

June marks the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. All things nature are in full swing of growth and the heat of summer starts blessing us for the first time since September last year.  Frankly, it’s my favorite time of the year! For most the agendas at work start to slow down, schools are out of session and people begin to take vacations. It’s truly the perfect time to allow yourself time to pull back from the consistent go-go-go and take in nature’s beauty. Which can also means taking your yoga practice outside!

I find in the warmer months my yoga practice not only gets outside more, it changes as I find myself outside more doing outdoor activities (walking, biking, swimming, and gardening) and due to the summer heat, I find a vigorous practice/exercise is not what I need as it tends to exhaust me rather than my intent to feel nourished after my exercise, especially while trying to conceive. So if I’m limited on time or energy due to other summer activities my go-to pose is Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).

I chose this pose because it’s a pose that’s a one stop shop, it stretches my shoulders, hamstrings, calves, feet and hands.  It strengthens my arms, legs, wrists, belly and muscles along my spine. It energizes my body, mind and often my digestion if it’s stagnant.

If you’re new to yoga or this pose you can modify the pose by placing your hands at the wall until you build more strength in your body. Click on hyperlink link above for video instructions of the pose.

Lastly, when your body temperature is up from the summer heat or maybe your flushed with anxiety or anger and need some settling in your body and mind. Try out Sitali Breath (cooling breath) below.

How to practice Sitali:

  • Start seated comfortably with a head, neck and spine in alignment;
  • Close your eyes and take a few natural breaths in and out of the nose;
  • Make an “O” space with your mouth;
  • If you can curl the tongue into itself and stick it out of the mouth (no worries if you cannot, not everyone is able);
  • Inhale deeply like drinking through a straw (bring in the cooler air through the tongue as your belly, ribs and chest fill up);
  • Exhale completely through the nose, closing the mouth.
  • You can practice this for 2-3 minutes. Come back to the natural breath and try again if needed.

I hope you’re able to enjoy your summer outside as much as possible. Yoga for Fertility and Prenatal Yoga After Infertility classes will still be held at the Moon this summer so don’t forget to visit us! Get outside with us for the Two Week Walk in Chicago in July and learn more at our Yoga for Fertility: Solution or Stretch? in August in Chicago and Highland Park as part of our FREE patient events!  

Be well,

Diana Zic

Finding Your Ground on Mother’s Day

By Cassie Harrison

Depending on where you are in motherhood journey, Mothers Day can raise a dichotomy of emotions. Those of us who find ourselves lost in thought on this day or for any of us who want to spend less time in our heads, finding a yoga practice that focuses on grounding your root chakra, muladhara, will take you out of your head and guide you to reconnect with the earth and find peace from within. When this chakra or energy center is open and flowing freely we feel connected to something greater than ourselves, more secure and well… grounded.

Now that spring finally feels like spring (thank you, Chicago weather!) you can take your practice outside and get down and grounded with the earth. Little else will ground you as fast as standing barefoot on the ground; no mat, no shoes, and a fresh pedicure. Do not despair if this is not an option, a quiet location inside will do just fine, but consider removing your mat, aka barrier between you and the earth. This practice need not be difficult, look for asanas that keep your feet or bum (it is right next to your root chakra after all!) secure on the ground.

Try the following – Sukasana (easy pose). Upavistha Konasana (wide angle seated forward bend). Tadasana (mountain). Virabradasana (warrior) I and II. Prasarita Padottanasana (wide angle forward bend). During your practice focus on the points that are contact with the ground, this will help you feel a deeper connection to it. Now breathe… Obvious right? Not really, our attachments to our devices or need to be in control tends to leave our minds tight from took much thinking. Finding your breath is the quickest way to send the all clear signal to the brain and the body will quickly follow suit. Try not to fly though your yoga practice and instead slow down and be mindful of each posture, holding each for several breaths; focusing on being calm and steady, soon you will begin to take on those qualities. Making this practice a daily practice will have long lasting effects.

I hope your feet land on the ground this Mother’s Day. Let us take care of you this holiday with special events just for you including a FREE yoga class in Chicago or virtual wine sip webinar. New yoga classes are also available!

Namaste.

Spring Cleaning Your Mind

by Cassie Harrison, RYT

A therapist once told me to write down all my thoughts with my left hang (I’m right handed) and not worry about what I wrote. I was to write whatever entered my mind onto paper. This request sent me into a tailspin of excuses. I can’t, my journal is full. To write with my left hand would be sinister. The pen store is out of pens. I went on and on.

When I finally committed to this drudgery, my eyes were opened or better yet my mind. What I learned from this exercise is that when I wrote with my dominant hand my tendency was to get caught up in self-judgment and criticism of my grammar, handwriting, and words. However, when I wrote with my left hand all that went away. My mind felt clear and quiet and this was before I started the exercise! Only my thoughts remained. What happened next was profound; the worry left with the ink. My hand couldn’t keep up, but that wasn’t important, as it wasn’t legible anyway! I let it all go. I could hear my breath, the space around me and found myself unconsciously being present. The “sound” from my citta (incessant monkey brain thoughts), was deafening, it drowned out the world around me and kept me from hearing my true self. I leave you with this, the fertility journey is tough enough and it might leave you felling depleted and out of control. I challenge you to take five minuets today (not tomorrow), set excuses aside, and chicken scratch onto paper (or that napkin below your coffee) whatever’s on your mind, whatever is troubling you.

There is no right or wrong here. Just imagine who you would you be without your citta.

Let us help you calm your mind and reduce your anxiety by 20% or more in just six weeks with our Yoga for Fertility series ! Available in Chicago on Tuesdays at 5:30pm and Saturdays at 8:30am along with Highland Park on Mondays at 5:45pm. Pair it with Acupuncture, Nutrition, or Fertility Enhancing Massage this month and save with You Pick Two for $199 . We also have special FREE events this month to take care during National Infertility Awareness . Call us to learn more at: 312-321-0004.

Benefits of Mindfulness for Fertility

Our bodies are hard-wired to react to stress. Back in the day, face to face with a sabre-tooth tiger, our stress response provided a huge survival edge. We were able to fight, or flee, or even freeze until the danger passed. Once safe (or eaten) the stress response could subside and our we could get on with things.

The nature of our stressors, however, has evolved. Now instead of cave bears, we’re carrying smartphones. We have social media to remind us constantly where we’re measuring up, and where we’re falling behind. Our fertility journey creates a series of painful unknowns, worst- and best-case scenarios to our minds that shake us to our core. And to make matters worse, we know that stress isn’t healthy – it’s harder to sleep, have sex, eat healthy and exercise when we’re living in fight/flight/freeze mode.

Enter mindfulness. We know that taking a deep breath or stretching tense muscles can provide relief when we’re stressed and anxious. Mindfulness is a practice: a series of techniques designed to short-circuit our instinctual response to stress. We learn – through body awareness, breathing and simple meditation techniques – to pay attention to what is happening in the moment and respond skillfully rather than reactively. When we short-circuit, our stress response good things happen. On a hormonal level, our body can enjoy the benefits of stress’s alter-ego, the relaxation response – better sleep, improved blood flow to our internal organs, improved digestion, less anxiety symptoms. Emotionally, mindfulness creates space for insight, or choice, as we respond differently to stressful situations.

And, mindfulness is more than meditation. At the Moon, we work with a model that teaches simple practices to connect with five “access points” for mindfulness: body, breath, thoughts, awareness and flow. Using these points of practice, mindfulness can infuse daily life.

If you’re interested in learning more, come join us for our Online Mindfulness program . Available as a drop-in or series, this class will lead you through this five-point system and help you develop a personal mindfulness practice that will help heal your body and mind, and create a resilience in the face of stress.

What is Yoga for Fertility all about?

Did you ever wonder what Yoga for Fertility is all about?

Learn about Brittany’s firsthand experience at: “Bottles & Banter” today!

Here feature “Does Yoga for Fertility Really Improve Fertility?” is available now.

Can Holiday Cheer Hinder Your Fertility?

By Diana Zic

As I write this, it’s the start of the holiday season. Some would say it’s the most wonderful time of the year and I would agree, except for the encouragement to do everything in excess. It starts with early commercials from car dealerships and jewelry stores, leading people to believe it’s necessary to buy extravagant gifts, in order to have a joyous holiday (I’m still waiting for my Lexus with a red bow). Then come the food and liquor companies’ ads, promoting their views on how holiday cheer should look and feel. Generally, that picture looks like a cocktail in hand, and a huge table of food nearby, to accompany it. Before I go any further, I want to state that I’m not trying to be the Grinch who stole Christmas, but I find that now, more than at other times of the year, drinking becomes much more prevalent, and acceptable. For example, I received a text from my neighbor: “Feel free to swing by for a glass of wine! We’re drinking all day!” If you’re curious, I didn’t go, as that certainly didn’t sound like a “glass of wine” type of invitation.

In the “pre-pregnant” stage of life, it’s hard to say no when you’re not yet pregnant. Or, you may be in the two-week wait, and don’t want to disclose to your grandmother that you may be pregnant soon. If you are new to pre-pregnant terminology, as referred to in the book, “ It Starts with the Egg ,” this means “protecting your eggs the way you would protect a growing baby if you were pregnant.” So, what’s a hopeful mom to do?

Let’s start with what moderate, and excessive drinking looks like. According to the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] , moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink per day for women, and up to two drinks per day, for men. Excessive, or heavy drinking, is defined as eight drinks or more per week for women, and 15 drinks or more per week, for men. The CDC also recommends that women who are, or may be pregnant, not drink alcohol at all. Oddly, there is no mention that men should not drink while trying to father a child, even though studies indicate that alcohol consumption decreases sperm count, sperm motility, and fertilization rates. Not to mention the oxidative stress alcohol causes throughout the body.

And of course there’s the issue of size, in our oversized culture. If you’re like the pre-research me, you may not have a clear understanding of what one drink actually looked like , because the glass typically given at a restaurant or bar is huge, so let me describe. A standard drink is defined as12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content); 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content); 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content); or 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey). Now that we understand what moderate and excessive drinking looks like, and what a drink size actually looks like, I was curious if it was okay to have drinks in moderation on my pre-pregnant journey. What I found was quite clear to me. See what you think about these five different studies:

  • First up, during an 18-year period, 252 women underwent infertility examinations and what it revealed was high alcohol consumption increased risk of infertility and fewer first and second trimester pregnancies in those women compared to moderate or low consumers of alcohol.
  • Next up was a bit different, it’s a study done with 430 Danish couples trying to conceive for the first time. They found that women consuming five or fewer drinks per week led to decreased fecundability. That would mean moderate drinking would not be recommended, although they do say further corroboration is needed.
  • Another study done in Denmark, was conducted to determine if alcohol use is a predictor for infertility. It’s finding was interesting as researchers found more problems among women in the later reproductive age group above 30 years of age who were drinking seven or more drinks per week.
  • This study researched whether alcohol consumption affects female fecundability. It indicated that “consumption of 14 or more servings of alcohol a week was slightly associated with reduced fecundability, but consumption of lower amounts seemed to have no discernible effect on fertility. Nonetheless, because the fetus may be particularly vulnerable to alcohol during the first few weeks after conception, it would seem prudent for women who are actively trying to become pregnant to abstain from alcohol during their fertile window until a pregnancy has been ruled out.”
  • Last but not least, there’s data indicating that alcohol has a negative effect on IVF success rates . This study determined that as few as four alcoholic drinks per week are associated with a decrease in IVF live birth rate.

In my personal research on hormonal health, and its connection with the gut, I’ve found that alcohol is an inflammation-causing agent . This means that alcohol can inflame the intestinal track, and hinder nutrients from being absorbed properly. So, if you’re trying to conceive it may be best not to interrupt this process whenever possibly, as being deficient in nutrients can negatively impact upon pregnancy, and pregnancy potential.

After researching the issue, it’s become quite clear to me that steering clear of excessive drinking is important while trying to conceive, whether it’s with assisted reproductive treatment or not, and of course, giving it up while pregnant. Unfortunately, because of the social pressures of the holiday season, avoiding it may be more difficult.

So here’s my trick. It works every time! Have sparkling water in a glass with a lemon or lime wedge. Most people will think you’re drinking a cocktail.

I wish you the best of luck on your journey, and happy holidays!

Diana Zic is a Health and Wellness Coach specializing in fertility health, Yoga Instructor (RYT) and Prenatal Yoga Instructor (RPYT) in Chicago, Illinois. Struggling to start her own family, she has devoted herself to learning how our lifestyles can affect our fertility health. She has made it her mission to help individuals with fertility challenges get balanced in their bodies so they can be in the most healthful place while trying to conceive.

Get to know Diana at the Pulling Down the Moon by joining her Yoga for Fertility Class!

Don’t know what Yoga for Fertility is all about? Check out the research here . Save your spot in a FREE class here .

Insights of Fifteen Years of Yoga Wisdom

Insights of Fifteen Years of Yoga Wisdom

by Beth Heller, M.S.

Fifteen years ago, Tami and I offered our first, six-week Yoga for Fertility class in Wilmette, a suburb of Chicago. Much to our surprise, we had a large and eager group of students show up for class. It was a surprise, because yoga was just hitting the general consciousness and, while were both experienced teachers, we really didn’t know whether anyone besides us would see the benefits of this practice for enhancing odds of conception. I had recently used yoga to jump start periods that had been absent for the previous four years, and Tami’s journey raising fertility twins led her to yoga. But it’s not always easy to translate personal success into an effective group experience.

That first class? TBH, it was meh.

Yes, meh. The class format, which included a brief period of group chat followed by a fertility-friendly posture practice, kept students’ attention and approached what we were seeking to create. But while everyone walked away happy and relaxed, from Tami and my perspective it was missing something.

So, we got back to work.

We both had a clear vision of the practice we wanted to teach. More than a “doing practice,” our program would be a (to use a really geeky term) capacity-building practice , meaning a process of learning and developing skills, instincts and abilities from yoga and building the confidence to apply them outside of yoga class to the infertility journey and beyond.

The program we developed over the next 15 years is just that – a “deep dive” into yoga philosophy and practice in a condensed period of time. Through the use of our five-body model, discussion, and specific physical and mental practices, we do way more than open tight hips and improve blood flow over the course of six weeks. We reignite hope and open windows where doors have slammed. Each week we go a bit deeper, and we have fun doing so. The physical practice is challenging at times because we don’t rush, we breathe deep and we rein in our collective desire to keep running on the treadmill of infertility stress.

Fifteen years later our class, which we teach both in-person and online, has lived up to our goal. In two separate research studies, we have seen how this class impacts the toxic anxiety of the infertility journey in two distinct ways. The first is what we would have predicted – that this six week yoga program lowered the immediate feelings of anxiety in women experiencing infertility. The second is what we were hoping for – a significant decrease in what is called Trait Anxiety, or how anxious a person believes themselves to be at their core.

Some gals shy away from Yoga for Fertility because they are uncomfortable with the discussion element, others feel their weekly hot or power yoga classes are getting them to the same place. We hope that some of you will reconsider these beliefs and give our class a try. Research shows it can lower anxiety by 20% over six weeks, and make measurable changes on a deeper level of self-awareness.

Still not sure it would work for you? There’s only one way to find out. Join us to learn how our yoga practice can shift the flow of your life towards creating the life you want to live.

Classes starting now!

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